Disclaimer: Don't own anything you recognize. However, all the parent theories in this are mine!
Author's Note: Well, this is an extremely belated Christmas story... I didn't actually finish it until January sometime and I have hesitated with posting it. My test audience went AWOL -- and I mean really went AWOL. Both have had copies for a while and neither have gotten back to me. With that said, this is driving me nuts, keeping this to myself. It spawned from a wacky conversation with Kaidence and was an experiment in that particular vein. I want absolute brutality with this -- be honest in what you think. Thanks!
By Etcetera Kit
You showed me—when I was
young just how to grow
You showed me—everything that I should know
You showed me—just how to walk without your hands
"So tell me, do you love Syd?"
"I do NOT love her."
"But you do love her."
"I can't love her because she could never love me."
Christmas was in the air. Downtown Newtech City was adorned with wreathes and lights, making the nights sparkle like a winter wonderland. The fresh dusting of snow added to the magic. The SPD Academy had been decorated accordingly. Lights and garlands were strewn amongst the halls along with wreathes and stars. However, the decoration people loved the most was the Christmas tree in the common room. All the cadets had contributed ornaments and their personal tastes stood out. Everyone could identify what the B-Squad's—the pink blown glass ornaments from Syd, the handmade reindeer from Z, the dreidels and Stars of David that Bridge had contributed and his… the ornaments from various points of his life, telling his story.
He sighed and stared out the window of the common room. The tree was in the background, white lights shimmering. Syd had been the one to insist on white lights, rather than colored. She claimed that some of the ornaments would clash with whatever color chosen, so white would minimize that. He couldn't ever imagine anything on a Christmas tree clashing. Growing up, none of their ornaments had matched. It was an eclectic hodgepodge that told their story, showcased different events and achievements and always looked beautiful. Multicolored lights, their ornaments, tinsel and some candy canes—those trees had been perfect.
His breath made a small spot of fog on the window. He leaned his head against the cool glass. The red trim on his uniform still seemed surreal—it was hard to believe that his dreams had come true. But that red signaled more work, more responsibility—he loved work and loved what he did, but he also wondered how his father, how Jack, had coped with this. Jack seemed to have just gone with the flow, addressed problems as they came up, rather than trying to troubleshoot everything in advance. Jack also had been more relaxed than him, better able to deal with stress… and he now knew why Jack had been given the red morpher.
But Jack was not here. His father was not here. He was on his own.
"Did you get a memo-gram too?"
"Yours say the same thing?"
"That your parents and my mother are going to be here for Christmas—yes."
"Are you all right with this?"
"I don't honestly know."
Schuyler Tate sighed, a small smile tugging at his lips. He was not completely on his own. He had family here—closer than he would like to admit. In fact, the speech that Bridge gave him last night had been amusing and too rehearsed to be something Bridge came up with on his own. It had seemed like collaboration between him and his parents. The bit about people always supporting him came from Uncle Mike, while the parts about listening to his heart and being true to himself probably came from Aunt Maya and the finale about being the best Red Ranger there ever was would be Bridge's original material.
He didn't like to acknowledge the familial connection between himself and Bridge, but it was there. Bridge might not announce it in the middle of a crowd, but he reminded Sky of it almost every night before they went to bed.
Bridge had also been after him to confess his feelings about Syd. Sky would admit, only to Bridge who was sworn to secrecy (which meant there was no telling how many other people knew), that he liked Syd, had been attracted to her since she enrolled at the academy. (Before Bridge enrolled and became his roommate—one of the things his aunt had asked him to do. "I'll feel better knowing you're close to him," she had said.) At first, the attraction had been purely physical—she was petite, blonde, blue-eyed, in a word, drop-dead gorgeous. Most of the males who trained with her liked her.
But that slowly changed… they were both assigned to the B-Squad and he realized that there was more to her than her superficial attitude and dingbat demeanor would let on. She was constantly realizing things about herself and hated to think that she was prejudiced or bigoted about anything. As much as her parents and she loved their money and stuff, they also donated huge sums to charities and benefits. She knew what it was like to love more than life itself, but she also knew what it was like to hate to the bitter end. Syd was… a lot of things that he wasn't. And she could never love him, not in the way he wanted to be loved by her.
"Fine! I'll tell Syd if you tell Z."
That was the last time he ever made a bargain with Bridge. The former Green Ranger and current Blue Ranger had no inhibitions about asking Z on a date. Of course, he had rambled about it and talked a lot about not offending her before he got around to actually saying 'dinner and a movie,' but he managed it. Seeing that relationship blossom and having Bridge constantly hounding him, it didn't make things easier. If anything, it made it worse. He and Bridge were close, closer than they let on in public—Bridge was the younger brother that he never had. He loved his cousin dearly, but there was something about seeing him with Z, seeing the easy way of talking and the way he was relaxed around her made it difficult. He couldn't still his nerves or his racing heart about Syd.
His cousin waltzed into the common room. Bridge had an annoying knack for being upbeat and cheerful when he wanted to brood. "What Bridge?" he asked, tearing his unfocused gaze away from the window and to the current Blue Ranger.
"Isn't your mother getting here soon?"
"What if she's early?"
"She'll be exactly on time."
"Well, you're just a little ray of sunshine today."
"Bridge, I don't want to talk about this with you—and I don't want an ill-conceived plan to cheer me up. Just leave it alone. Your parents will be here tomorrow and things will be better." He paused. "Besides, I don't know who else is going to run into her and what she's going to tell them about me."
"Oh." Bridge looked down.
"What?" Sky asked sharply.
"Um… Syd took the sign-in desk shift because Pete is sick."
Working the sign-in desk this close to Christmas was certainly more entertaining than it would normally be, Syd reflected. Many of the cadets and support staff had their families and friends coming into town. She had seen more aliens and humans from other planets than she had seen all year—and that was saying something since she had been constantly surrounded by bounty hunters, monsters, aliens and Troobians.
She hummed to herself as another person entered the lobby. She loved this time of the year—Christmas was always special and not just because her parents bought her piles upon piles of presents, although that was a plus. There was just something in the air, something that brought out the best in people. The season of the spirit—that seemed apropos. She loved singing carols, going to charity functions, helping put up the Christmas tree at the local children's shelters and domestic violence shelters… helping people have a good holiday. She knew that people should feel like this all year, but it was that elusive something about Christmas that made it all the more magical.
Magic… that was something she desperately wanted to believe in. She wanted to believe that her tall, brooding knight would sweep her off her feet with a song or romantic candlelit dinner for two or a special Christmas present… too bad that the person she really wanted didn't have a romantic bone in his body. One-time dates were piling up—Syd had never felt pressure from her parents to date or find a boyfriend, they always let her choose who she wanted to be with. Class standing was not the issue. Her father always jokingly talked about how he could polish anyone.
And Bridge had Z had started dating recently. If there was one thing she learned about Bridge over the years, it was that he really had no inhibitions. He tended to act a little lost and a little naïve, but he had asked Z out with a surprising grace and easiness that eluded almost everyone else in the world. Syd had a feeling it had to do with Bridge's powers—and the fact that he and Sky grew up together. Being around someone like Sky—uptight about everything—would be enough to drive anyone in the opposite direction of not caring. She knew that Bridge and Sky were cousins—Bridge let that slip during one of his many stories about his relatives. She was still trying to figure out how two cousins—with their fathers supposedly brothers—had ended up one Jewish and one Christian.
"Can I help you?" she asked the newest arrival, breaking her train of thought.
The woman was not really petite, but shorter than all the really tall cadets around here. Medium height, Syd would presume. She was thin and her blonde hair was in a tight ponytail. She had friendly blue eyes that her wire-framed glasses didn't hide. Syd thought she looked reminiscent of someone, but she couldn't place who.
"I'm here to see Schuyler Corbett," she said, then almost immediately winced. "Oh, I forgot, he goes by Tate here." She shook her head, looking apologetic even though the subject of her mistake was not present. "Sky Tate. I'm here to see Sky Tate."
"You're related to him?" Syd asked conversationally as she pushed the sign-in clipboard towards her. No wonder this woman looked familiar—she was related to Sky.
"I'm his mother," the woman said with a smile, then frowned, muttering to herself as she filled in her information. "Tate, why can't I remember that he uses that name?"
Syd glanced at the clipboard. The woman had written Kendrix Corbett in the name spot. In the column where she put down who she was here to see, she wrote Schuyler and had started to write Corbett, but crossed it out and wrote Tate. "I'm Syd," she said, trying to make small talk with Sky's mother. She seemed a little high-strung, a little anxious, but like a really nice person. "I'm on the same ranger team as Sky."
"Oh," Mrs. Corbett said, her eyes lighting up—Sky's eyes did the same thing. "You're the Pink Ranger! Bridge talks about you." She smiled. "I was a Pink Ranger too."
"That's cool," she replied, making a mental note to figure out why Bridge would have to talk to his aunt about someone and why she wasn't hearing it from Sky, himself. "Sky should be in the common room. Do you know the way?"
"I think so." Kendrix smiled again. "It's been a while since I've been here."
"I can get an escort or I can call Sky or—"
"No, it's all right. I'll find it. If I have problems, I can just come back here, right?"
"Of course," Syd replied. "I hope I'll see you around—we're all stuck here for Christmas."
Sky's mom actually laughed. "I heard. Bridge got lucky since Hanukah was before Christmas this year." She shook her head. "I guess you'll be at the dinner on Christmas Day—Sky said that all the families were invited."
"Of course," Syd scoffed playfully. "I planned it."
"I'll see you then," Kendrix Corbett said as she made her way out of the lobby and towards the escalators that went to the upper levels—levels with the housing, command center and other areas of interest to cadets and visitors.
The Pink Ranger stared after her. Sky did not tell stories about his mother—he talked about his father and told stories about his other relatives for hours, but the one person, the woman who had been there most of his childhood was left out. That did not make much sense unless there was something going on behind closed doors. Syd could not imagine having a bad relationship with her parents—she adored them and they her. That was not to say she found them irritating at times, she did, but had realized that most of that came and went with age. What was going on with Sky? She knew all about his paternal aunt and uncle and his maternal family and cousins… but where was this Kendrix Corbett? Sky's real last name was Corbett, which meant that was also Bridge's real last name. It was understandable why neither used their given last name here, but still…
"You look like someone just walked off with your credit card."
Syd glared at Z as she hopped off the escalator and to the welcome desk. "I'm just thinking," she replied. "And it has nothing to do with shopping or credit cards."
"Thank God," Z said, perching on the edge of the desk and playing with the visitor badges. "If you had been doing that, I'd have had to run away."
"Very funny," Syd replied dryly. "Listen, does Bridge ever talk about his Aunt Kendrix?"
"Sure," the Yellow Ranger said nonchalantly. "She's the one that makes him spritz cookies and let him borrow her chemistry set for his sixth grade science project. Why?"
"That's Sky's mom."
Z shrugged. "I figured as much. That side of their family is pretty tight."
Syd frowned. "Are they really that tight?"
"The adults and Bridge are at any rate." Z paused and gave her a knowing expression. "You're thinking Sky doesn't fit into that picture."
"His mom just got here and she was acting a little odd—like she was afraid Sky was going to blow up over something minor."
"Well, he does blow up over little things."
"Be that as it may, she's his mother and he seems like he's on fairly good terms with the rest of his family. Why not her?"
"There's a lot of reasons for that, Syd," Z said in a soft voice, her eyes distant. "His father died when he was still fairly little—what, seven or eight?" Syd made a grunt of agreement. "That had to be hard on his mom. From what Bridge has said, his parents had a really deep bond—something really elusive. Bridge doesn't remember much about them, but he does remember that Sky's parents loved each other a lot. What if his mother couldn't move on? Or expected him to replace his father or follow those footsteps? What if she distanced herself from him so she wouldn't be hurt again?"
"I get the point," the Pink Ranger interrupted. "It just doesn't make sense."
"So they're not close? What does it matter?" Z caught her stony gaze and rolled her eyes. "Sorry, I forgot. It matters because you're so in love with him."
"Z!" she squawked. "Can you please just ask Bridge what he knows?"
"Not that's he's going to spill anything, but…" she trailed off with a resigned look on her face. "Because you are my friend, I'll try to find something out."
She watched as Z retreated back up the escalators, hopefully to find Bridge and ask some questions. Syd let out a long breath as the lobby fell silent. She cared about Sky—she wasn't sure if she loved him, although Z claimed it had to be love for a myriad of reasons, mostly because Syd defended his quirks. Sky always had a bemused smile for her or a friendly arm around the shoulders. He stopped her from initially falling prey to Mirloc that afternoon in the park. He was… not exactly her dream man, but he was the man that she could picture herself growing old with, perhaps having children with…
A couple walked into the lobby. She shook her head and smiled. "Can I help you?"
"So… you're doing all right?"
Sky inwardly sighed, picking at his food. The restaurant was one that he normally liked, one that he and the others frequented on Friday afternoons off. His mother had asked him where he wanted to eat dinner and he had named this place, mostly because he figured he'd get a decent dinner out of the deal. Now, he couldn't force himself to eat the pasta. Oh, later he would be hungry and wish he ate a little more… but now…
It was always like this—awkward silence, looking away from each other. He didn't understand this. Everyone else could talk to his mother, get along with her, think she was the greatest person in the world, except him. Her eyes were a mirror of his, a dark navy blue that told so much. It hurt to see her eyes fall on him. She looked a little afraid, tentative, like one word would drive him away forever. Things had been like this since his father died, like she was afraid of… everything, dammit! He wanted to shout at her that he loved her, wanted to ask if she still loved him or if she came to see him because Uncle Mike and Aunt Maya insisted. But he did nothing, just ate in silence and answered questions in monosyllables.
"I'm fine," he replied shortly, twirling some pasta with his fork.
"You look tired."
"I'm fine," he repeated. She was right. He knew that—couldn't disguise the dark circles under his eyes, couldn't pretend that he wasn't stressed out. He had chosen to wear a dark red cashmere sweater, a gift from Syd. She had given it to him early, so he would wear it to the luncheon tomorrow. She had claimed that it brought out the color of his eyes. He wasn't so sure about that, but it was comfortable and, at this point in his life, he wanted comfort over looking good.
He dropped his fork on the side of his plate, his hand going to his thigh and rubbing the material of his khaki pants. He was worn these pants to that magic show… the one where Syd had been under a spell by that magician. That magician's assistant outfit had made her look really cute… cuter than usual, although she had been under a spell.
His mother dropped her eyes to her plate, that dark blue gaze looking bruised and defeated. He wanted to cry, wanted to yell, wanted something other than this defeat and this fear. He propped his elbows on the edge of the table, raking his hands through his hair. "Maybe I should just go back to headquarters," he said softly.
Sky was silent as his mother paid the bill. They left the restaurant and walked back towards SPD. Neither of them spoke. That quiet was awkward and tense, but he had nothing to say, nothing to fill it with.
"I'll see you tomorrow," he said outside SPD. "The luncheon…"
"Yes," Kendrix said with a distant smile. "It starts at eleven-thirty?"
He nodded. "It's in the common room."
"I know. I'll be there."
Sky nodded again and turned to open the door, but there was no need. Someone pushed it open, before, "Sky!" Syd trilled, grabbing his arm and yanking him outside once more. "Hi Mrs. Corbett," she added towards his mother. "I'm going to Bluebell's. Want to come with?"
"Bluebell's?" his mother asked.
"Best ice cream place in the world," Syd replied with a conspiratorial wink, although, Sky knew that there was no conspiracy going on. "They have really good frozen yogurt and sherbet and icees and stuff too," she continued and then whirled on him. "You haven't taken your mother to Bluebell's? What kind of a child are you?"
Syd reached up and smacked him lightly on the back of the head. He winced, rubbing the spot she had hit. "So, you guys in or out?" Syd asked. "Besides, if he doesn't want to go," she gestured towards him, focusing on his mother, "we can go without him."
"That sounds… nice," Kendrix replied, sounding politely bewildered.
Syd chattered during the entire one block walk to the ice cream place. She told stories about the B-Squad, their promotion, her parents' Christmas parties and all the presents she had been getting, all the gifts she was getting everyone else, their Christmas tree party at the domestic violence shelter… Sky wasn't sure how she got it all out and made it sound coherent, but he did notice that his mother smiled and responded to her antics. It was true—everyone except him could get along with and like his mother.
What had happened? He trailed along behind Syd and his mother, noting with amusement that both had their blonde hair in a ponytail. God, Kendrix looked more like Syd's mother than his… he knew that his height came from his father's side of the family—he had inherited a lot of the same genes as his Uncle Mike and, when he had been little, his hair was been pure, golden blonde and got darker each year. What had driven him and his mother apart? All he knew was that it started after his father's death… his father died the summer in between second and third grade—he had been eight years old. His father had been a great man, but had some strange ideas about raising children.
One of those ideas regarded school lunches. From first grade on, Sky had not been allowed to buy lunch like everyone else. One of his parents would pack a balanced meal—complete with fruit, sandwich with lettuce and tomato and a thermos of juice. But he could always tell when his mother had packed his lunch, because she would give him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and two fun-sized candy bars for trading with the other kids. She would also write a note on the inside of his napkin—something simple like 'I love you. Have a great day.' In third grade he had started packing his own lunch… no more notes, candy bars or peanut butter.
Why? He didn't remember much about third grade. In fact, the only times he thought about this were when his mother was visiting.
"I wish Dad were here."
"He's not here anymore Sky. But he'll—"
"I hate you! Dad wouldn't have made me."
"Dad isn't here. I am. Go to your room."
With a burst, that memory came back to him. Third grade… he couldn't remember what he had been upset about, but he did remember going to his room and crying his heart out, not sure what he wanted, but knowing it had to be different from what he had. Had he done that often—used his father as a bargaining tool? That didn't seem like enough…
"Your mom's really proud of you."
"Being made a Red Ranger, of course!"
"Oh… I forgot to tell her. Bridge must have—"
"Schuyler Michael Corbett, you are almost twenty-one. Stop acting like a child."
And his Aunt Maya's words made him feel worse than any memory. She was right—he was still acting childish. His father had been gone for almost thirteen years, brooding about it wasn't going to bring him back. However, his mother was still here, still needed him… but he couldn't cross that gap between them. That afternoon, he had put away the picture of himself and his father from all those years ago and found a more recent snapshot from a Corbett family reunion. It was a group picture of his family, Bridge's and their paternal grandparents, but it wasn't brooding about his father.
He had always wanted to be like his father, wanted to prove that he had it in him to become a Red Ranger. What if he had never been cut out for it? Would his father have chosen this path for him? Why was he questioning himself now? What if…
Sky had been so caught up in his thoughts that he hadn't realized they had arrived at the ice cream shop and nearly walked head-long into the glass door. Syd and his mother were at the counter, surveying their choices.
"Sky," Syd called. "Do you want what you normally get?"
"Sure," he replied, joining them. His usual was two scoops of sherbet in a bowl.
Syd nodded. "Never gets ice cream—I don't get it."
"He's slightly allergic to it," Kendrix said. "Gets it from me." For the first instance in a long time, a genuine smile broke out over his mother's face. He was startled, because it made all the difference in the world. She looked younger, happier and more at peace.
"Sky," Syd reprimanded, smacking his arm. "Why don't you give us reasons? I'd have stopped hounding you a long time ago if I knew that!"
"You'd hound me anyways," he muttered. "Orange," he told the girl behind the counter, standing ready with the ice cream scoop.
"How many other things is he allergic to?" Syd asked Kendrix, ignoring his comment as she pulled out money to pay for the ice cream.
"Not much else—slightly allergic to melon." His mother paused. "I think he ate dirt once. It must have boosted his immune system."
"I was seven and Bridge dared me to."
"Since when do you do something because Bridge did it?"
"He was four and I didn't want to be shown up by a baby!"
Syd was grinning as she led the way to a table. God, there had been so many times during childhood that Bridge got him into trouble. Bridge didn't think before doing something—he just plunged headfirst in and Sky followed, trying to fix the trouble, but always inevitably making things worse or making it appear that he started it. But Bridge had tended to come through and confess to being the guilty one. Even at four, Bridge knew how to work the system. When he got in trouble, he had things like television and snacks taken away. When Sky got in trouble, he was confined to the house. And Bridge would rather be without cookies than without his companion.
"And the broken arm was Bridge's fault," he added for good measure, not sure where this easy banter between him and his mother had come from.
"Care to tell me what else was Bridge's fault?"
"The car wreck."
Kendrix looked genuinely amused at that. Sky felt himself color, wishing he hadn't brought up that instance. He had been sixteen, right before he enrolled at SPD and had just gotten his driver's license. Through a series of mishaps involving Bridge as the passenger in the car, the car in question ended up sandwiched in a three-car pile up. The back driver got a ticket. Sky got a ticket—and freaked because he thought traffic violations would screw up his record at SPD. His mother had spent a long time on the phone with the insurance company… and managed to make it look like the wreck had not been Sky's fault at all.
"Don't ask," he muttered. "Bridge has just been taking responsibility for it since it happened and I'm not sure why."
"Bridge took responsibility for everything," his mother said, shaking her head. "And don't think that I didn't know he was manipulating his parents with that." She paused with a fond smile. "He always looked up to you, wanted to be just like you."
Syd had her head propped up on her hand, smiling at the statement. Her ice cream was slowly melting into unidentifiable goo. "I just have one question," she said, looking down at the puddle of hot fudge and vanilla ice cream in the plastic bowl and wrinkling her nose. "Why is Bridge Jewish and you're not?"
That made his mother smile, looking almost nostalgic. "Sky's father and Bridge's father were brothers," she started unnecessarily. "They were Jewish. Mike raised Bridge Jewish, but his mother still does her own thing." She paused. "Leo converted to Christianity when we got married. He didn't want our children to be forced to deal with duel religions. At least not at home."
Syd had started stirring the goop that her ice cream had become. She glanced at her watch and gave him a pointed look. "We need to get back to the academy. Curfew's in a few minutes." She paused and gave his mother an apologetic look. "Can we walk you back to the hotel? We should still be in on time."
"No, it's all right. Go be on time."
Sky blinked. His mother hadn't said things like that in a long time… and it seemed so natural for her, that easy banter. What had happened in the space of half an hour?
"And I think I'm beautiful!" Syd sang as she danced around her room, still in the process of getting ready for the Christmas luncheon. She was also quite pleased with herself over the success of last night. From what Z had beaten out of Bridge, Sky and his mother had been distant since his father's death. It was like neither of them could reconcile their feelings, so they took it out on each other. And Syd had been right. All they needed was a non-threatening atmosphere and a third party interested in their memories. And from the pensive looks Sky had during most of the ice cream trip, Syd was pretty sure that he was reflecting on what had happened. It was perfect—she felt like announcing that she was a genius.
"Yes, that's me," she said as she studied her reflection in the mirror. "Sydney Drew, the smartest, most beautiful person on this planet."
She narrowed her eyes, studying her lip gloss. Perhaps she should go a shade darker to go with the dark pink top she was wearing…
Someone knocked on the door. Z was done getting ready and had gone to the luncheon to help with set-up. She had locked her door so that no one would walk in on her singing while blow-drying her hair. She hadn't quite forgotten the Wootox incident. "Syd?" she heard Sky call.
"Hang on!" she called back, throwing the tubes of lip gloss on her bed and crossing to the door. She released the lock and the doors slid open to reveal Sky. He was wearing the red sweater from last night with gray slacks… he looked good. She had always known she had good taste when picking out clothes for him.
He stepped into the room. "Can I use your bathroom?"
Syd blinked as the doors hissed shut. "You wear glasses?" she blurted out.
It was true. He was standing there, completely ready to go except for the fact that he was wearing wire-framed glasses. They made him look… Syd couldn't quite put her finger on the right word. She had never seen him wear glasses before and he looked much more studious, like he was just as likely to be reading a favorite novel as in the gym, training. Then she realized that he was holding a contact case.
"Not normally," he replied. He repeated his previous query.
"What's wrong with your bathroom?"
"Bridge is in there doing God only knows what."
"Why do you need to use a bathroom to put your contacts in?" Sky gave her a bored look. "All right, fine. Go ahead. Just be careful—I went a little hairspray crazy in there earlier!"
"Charming," Sky muttered as he disappeared into her bathroom.
"Hey Sky?" she called.
"Why don't you wear your glasses?"
"What?" Sky reappeared in the door of her bathroom, looking a little puzzled. He still had his glasses on. "Why?" He paused. "Glasses don't give you clear peripheral vision. In order to train efficiently at SPD, contacts are a necessity."
"Yeah, that would be the handbook reason," she retorted. "But we're not on duty today and we're not on call, meaning it doesn't matter if you're wearing glasses or contacts."
"Syd, why do you care?"
"I don't know. I guess because you look more like your mom when you wear them."
Sky was silent for a moment. He moved from the bathroom door and sat down on the end of her bed. "I look like my mom anyways," he said softly. "I don't look anything like my dad."
Syd sat down next to him. "Is that so bad?"
"I don't know. I always wanted to be like my dad…"
She let out a long breath and took his hand, threading her fingers through his. "You know, Sky, I think your dad would have wanted you to take care of your mom." She paused as he grasped her hand tightly, as if she would let go. "But—"
"Syd," he whispered, interrupting her. "I've been estranged from her for so long that I'm not sure what to do."
"Just love her. That's all she wants, Sky. You're perfect the way you are."
He was silent. It was so odd, seeing this kind of worry and vulnerability from him. Sky was normally over-confident, almost cocky in his self-assurance. But he worried, just like the rest of them. In fact, Syd knew that he had been more stressed out since being made Red Ranger. He wanted to be a perfect ranger—and he knew that there was no such thing.
She smiled, not sure when she had realized she was attracted to him. It had probably started out as purely physical. He was tall, muscular with piercing blue eyes and sandy blonde hair. In a word, he was hot and she would have done anything to have him. But she soon realized that he wasn't interested in girls at all—he was too focused on being a ranger and too in love with SPD. It had hurt to realize that, but she knew it was his life and he would need to realize that there was more to living. She was willing to wait, but… she didn't know what had compelled her to take his hand. Here he was, not resisting… maybe there was hope.
Magic… she had hoped for it.
"Syd," Sky said. "I really like you."
"I like you too."
"No, I mean I—"
She turned towards him, his eyes alight with something. Slowly, he leaned down, his lips meeting hers in a soft, innocent kiss. It didn't last quite as long as she would have liked, but there was all the time in the world for that. In that single moment, she realized how soft his lips were, how much she wanted him… He moved slightly, pressing a kiss to her temple. Somehow, that completely innocent kiss was all the more intimate. She shivered, leaning closer to him.
"Are you going to go put your contacts in?" she asked.
"No." He paused. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yeah," she replied, all the thoughts of the lip gloss fled from her mind. He left his contact case on her nightstand and they headed down the hall in a comfortable silence. It didn't need to be filled… Bridge appeared from the boys' room and met them on their journey to the common room. He smirked at Sky's eyewear.
"Going with your Clark Kent look?" he asked.
"Shut-up Bridge," Sky growled.
"I'm just saying—"
"I'd like to go today without being compared to Superman."
Bridge seemed to sense that he needed to back down. Syd gently took Sky's hand, happy that he returned the gesture. The luncheon was just starting when they arrived. She knew that it probably drove Sky nuts to be on time and not early, but he wasn't making any noise. Perhaps he was going to start relaxing. At the rate he had been going, he was going to burn out or give himself an ulcer sooner rather than later. Everyone knew that Sky was stressing himself out, but no one had made a move to do something about it. Syd knew that Sky would stop once he realized what he was doing to himself…
She squeezed Sky's hand as he spotted his mother and picked his way through the crowd of people to her. They exchanged a few quiet words and, a moment later, he had drawn his mother into a tight hug. Mrs. Corbett's shoulders were shaking—she was crying.
"I don't know how you did it." Syd turned to see Bridge standing at her shoulder. His gaze was fixed on Sky and Kendrix. "My mother's been trying for a decade to get them to reconcile and you manage it in less than twenty-four hours."
"You know," she replied. "I'm not sure how I did it either."
"They deserve to be happy," he responded vaguely.
"You must be Syd."
A tall man with a shock of dark brown hair and a friendly smile came over to them. Clearly, he was Bridge's father. "That's me," Syd replied.
"Mike Corbett," he replied with a grin.
"My dad," Bridge added.
"I'm not sure where your mother got to," Mike said, glancing around the room.
Syd was about to ask if they lost Bridge's mother often, but spotted her own father coming in the door of the room. "Daddy!" she squealed, running over to him. She wasn't sure what it was about her father that made her regress into being a little kid again, but he did. She had been daddy's little girl her entire life. Her father picked her up and spun her around.
"Princess!" he replied, setting her on her feet. "Sorry I'm late. Your mother was fussing at Crighton and the way he was loading the rest of your gifts in the car."
"Where is Mom?"
"Still at the hotel, primping. You know how she is."
If people thought Syd spent forever primping, her mother was much worse. She exchanged a conspiratorial smile with her dad. Glenn and Samantha Drew were both great people, a little frivolous on occasion, but good people nonetheless. More than once, her father had written a check for something the academy needed. She had accomplished a lot, but they wanted her to be happy and were proud of her decision to join SPD. Both her parents had degrees in the sciences and had been a part of the experiments in 2001 as scientists. Now, her mother was a teacher and her dad was CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
The luncheon continued as usual. Her mother appeared before the buffet started and apologized profusely. Syd kept watching Sky and his mother from the corner of her eye. Kendrix looked like she had been crying, but she also looked extremely happy. For that little thing, Syd couldn't have been happier.
She had always been there for him. Sky knew that now. He had been blind to that fact. Peanut butter and jelly… those fun-sized candy bars… the notes… There was so much he could remember now, so much he had taken for granted. His mother was a professor at NYU and she had advanced degrees in ecology and biology. She was extremely busy. And yet he couldn't remember being put in day care or with a babysitter after his father's death. He couldn't remember dinner not being prepared. He couldn't remember a time when their house hadn't been so clean that one could eat off the floor or a time when three square meals hadn't been served, whether he wanted them or not.
His mother, Kendrix Corbett, had always supported him and that meant the world.
The luncheon was winding down. Most people were making plans with their families for Christmas Day and New Year's. Some were planning shopping trips and some were just begging to be taken to a favorite restaurant. Sky sat on one of the couches, one towards the back of the room near the window. His mother sat next to him, tightly holding his hand.
"You're wearing your glasses," she said softly.
"Yeah. Syd's idea."
"Well, I was wearing them earlier and she suggested I just leave them on."
"Sky, I know you don't really want to hear this, but I could always see so much of myself in you."
"I think I know that now. I was never much like Dad."
"He knew that. He said one time that he was glad for that." His mother paused, letting out a long breath. "Leo was reckless. He loved us, but…" She shook her head. "He was glad that you stuck to schedules and routines. You didn't run wild like he had."
"I don't understand how you two ever got married."
"Opposites attract," she replied simply.
Sky sighed, deciding to finally say what was on his mind. "Mom, do you think Dad would have wanted this for me? Coming to SPD and being a ranger?"
"He would have been proud, but he would have encouraged you to find something you love, not join SPD just because that's what he had done." She paused again. "Sky, your father would have wanted you to be happy."
"He'd have wanted you to be happy too," he said softly.
"I am happy," she replied with a smile. "Every time I see you and I see the man you've grown into… I know we've never been close, but I've always been proud of you."
"Can… can we ever be close?"
"I don't know. It will take time. I love you, Sky, but you don't need me anymore. I don't know when it happened, but you grew up."
"I'll always need you."
Tears glistened in his mother's eyes as she lifted one hand to his cheek. He smiled, feeling emotion clogging his throat. Leaning towards her, he pulled her into his arms for a tight hug. She returned it, shaking with silent sobs. "Look at me, I'm a mess today," she said as she pulled away from him, taking off her glasses to wipe her eyes. "I think you should go set up a formal date with a certain young lady who's had her eye on you."
Sky smiled and, pressing a kiss to his mother's cheek, he moved across the room to Syd.
When he got back to his room later that night, he found a card on his pillow. Inside, it simply said, I love you. Mom. Two fun-sized candy bars were under his pillow.
It's not the big things,
but the little things that can mean enough…
'Cause Mom you always were, the perfect fan.
I love you, Mom.